Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum

Reflections on Jewish-Muslim Dialogue

Posted by Admin on March 25, 2007


The relationship between Judaism and Islam was explored at a unique symposium which was held on Sunday 25th March.

The event, which took the form of a dialogue between the Islamic scholar Mona Siddiqui and the Middle East analyst Tony Klug, examined how Jews are perceived by the Muslim community.

Speaking at the third lecture sponsored by the Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam at Glasgow University, explored the history of relations between the two faiths, and their different approaches to the shared traditions of what she referred to as “Scripture, Story and Salvation”.

Dr Siddiqui noted that while there was an ambivalence towards the Jewish people in the Koran, there was, however, “no systematic theology of hatred towards Jews and Judaism”. The Muslim community’s perception of Jews was, she emphasised, related directly to the Arab-Israeli conflict and its understanding of Western foreign policy in the Middle East. She added that when the conflict is refracted through that prism, “the complexity is lost”.

Her interlocutor, Dr Tony Klug, Senior Policy Consultant at the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum, gave a brief history of Jewish-Arab dialogue from 1984 to the present day. Citing the work of the scholar Bernard Lewis, he rejected the view that Islamic hostility towards Israel and the Jewish people was based on an inherent hatred of Jews; rather, he argued that it was a consequence of “an inevitable response to occupation”, and “the offspring of the tragic conflict in the Middle East”.

While he acknowledged the rise of anti-Semitic currents in the Arab and Muslim worlds, Dr Klug argued that a just resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would counter the enmity which exists at present. He affirmed his continuing support for a two-state solution, a position which he first set out in a Fabian Society pamphlet, “A Tale of Two Peoples”, published in 1973.

In relation to the Middle East conflict, Dr Siddiqui said that while she agreed with Dr Klug’s analysis, there was a moral imperative on the part of Europe and America to find a solution. As regards the UK, she said that the Muslim community was, in many respects, attempting to define its place in the post-colonial world. While the community was not monolithic, she noted that, in recent years, it had become more insular and there had been a resurgence of conservative tendencies in which identity was expressed through religious belief. 

Dr Klug expressed the hope that, in the long run, rapprochement between the two peoples would be established on the basis of an understanding of the history of the other. 

We welcome your thoughts on these issues.

21 Responses to “Reflections on Jewish-Muslim Dialogue”

  1. Nemo said

    Just returned from the meeting. I thought I saw Ben Avraham there, but couldn’t have been him because its rumoured he’s passed on. Anyway, before he sharpens his pen and slates the speakers I want to say that both Mona Siddiqui and Tony Klug were excellent.They were honest in their summary of their respective communities and did not attempt to manufacture non existant answers to difficult questions. They differentiated between the religious and secular problems and the inter-relationshp between the two. Stripping away the mutual hate and distrust between our two communities there is an underlying and solvable problem, the claims of two peoples to the same piece of land and its eventual apportionment.
    However, not just with Israel but with our own community I am an eternal optimist and thought that given the subject and relevance to our future those who purport to lead and represent us would be present in force. They were for the most part absent once again. They should be ashamed of themselves and so should we. We should be ashamed for we deserve better and it is about time we got better. The question is not what we do with those in office for they have become irrelevant but how we create a new structure that is relevant and has the support and respect of the community.

  2. A Beitz said

    I agree with you Nemo. The attendance was reasonable (using the Glasgow Lubavitch method of head counting around 300!) but there were many people missing who clearly either aren’t coming because they are not interested in what prominent Moslems have to say or alternatively they don’t like the facilitators of these meetings believing that organisations such as the Rep Council alone should decide what goes on in the community. There will of course have been some people who had other engagements but I suspect others who took a deliberate decision not to attend. IMO they missed one of the best meetings that has ever taken place in this community. I am also aware of one reasonably well known member of the community (although as far as I am aware he doesn’t hold office at the moment) who opined in response to the suggestion he attend to the effect that he had no interest whatever in what Moslems thought of us. His loss.
    Congratulations to Mona Siddiqui and Tony Klug.

  3. Interested said

    What a wonderful meeting last night.
    It was exceptional.
    However, those who claim to be communal leaders – specifically the executive of the Rep Council should be ashamed of themselves.
    This organisation claims to work on our behalf on interfaith matters. Well why were none of them present at the most interesting interfaith meeting held in years?
    Perhaps the odd one of the five officers had a valid excuse. But for none of them to be there is disgraceful.
    These people are not communal leaders.
    They have let themselves down and this community down when they do not have either the intellect or the judgement to go and hear what Mona Siddiqui has to say.
    None of them were sufficiently interested in Calderwood Lodge to turn up at that meeting either.
    So when someone from the Representative Council jumps up at some future date trying to be important, we now no better.
    They are a total waste of time. Our own community knows it – maybe soon the wider community in Glasgow will also be aware that they are irrelevant.
    Everyone knows that they read this blog – one of them even says so in the JC, so will they have any integrity and courage to tell us where they were last night that was so important that none of them could be bothered or interested or broad-minded enough to show up.

  4. Pesachdick said

    Interested, like you I thought this was a well presented meeting which gave a clearer insight to the root cause of the Israel/Palestine Question and also about what the local muslim community think and I for one am glad I went. However, like the rest of us there, I too wondered why those who claim to represent us as communal leaders were conspicuous by their absence. I suggest that at the next Rep Council meeting we ask the question and see whether we get a response. I suspect that it may be a touch of jealousy that GJEF are leading the way in organising interesting meetings and maybe even that they are annoyed at what has been said about them on this blog. Either way they are only proving what some already believe – that they are an irrelevance and an anachronism.

  5. npn said

    Indeed it was a cracking event- genuinely one of the best-yet bizarrely for all that I came away less hopeful than I would have liked ;I thought that Tony Klug was more idealistic than Mona Siddiqui who painted a fairly bleak picture of the uk Muslim Communitiy and their wish /or lack of wish to engage with us .
    Both speakers were on great form and for academics had ,an all too regularly lacking , ability to articulate their views in plain English-well done to them both !
    Tony Klug argued that if we solve the territorial dispute we solve the greater part of the problem ,Mona Siddiqui I believe agrees with that but doesn’t share Tony’s optimism for a breakthrough and she was was quite forthright in her dismissal of the vast majority of interfaith groups.
    Whilst some may disagree with me ,I suspect Mona’s analysis of a largely apathetic uk Muslim community could be easily applied to our own community.

  6. Benny said

    Congratulations to GJEF.
    This was a brilliant meeting. Both speakers were excellent and anyone who didn’t come along certainly missed out.

  7. Not Usually Interested... said

    Normally I find these type of meetings really boring but was surprised to find this one really interesting! Well done.

  8. Marvin said

    Excellent meeting indeed. Thanks to GJEF for arranging. I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue between the two excellent guest speakers.

    Only slight disappointment was the smarmy chairperson. Looking at his smuggness in the picture above as he overshadows the guests still makes me feel a little nauseaus.

    Anyway after a couple of aspirins I realise it fortunately didn’t detract from an excellent evening. Well done to all involved. Looking forward to the next event.

  9. npn said

    I guess your inferiority complex is due to low self esteem brought about at least partly by your inability to spell ; never mind at least you are not in denial about your need for medication – ever thought about taking something stronger ?
    Thick Skinned Chairman Nick.

  10. Worth Reading said

    This article written by Jonathan Freedland in today’s Guardian is worth reading.
    Jonathan Freedland will speak in Glasgow on Monday 23rd April, and is the guest of the Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum.

    Now is the time to call the bluff of the land of missed opportunities

    The Arab League should bypass Ehud Olmert and go directly to the Israeli people with its offer for a Palestinian settlement

    Jonathan Freedland
    Wednesday March 28, 2007
    The Guardian

    Call it peace process envy. If they have any sense, Israelis and Palestinians will have a bad case of it this week, as they eye with jealousy the photographs flashed around the world from Belfast. How they must pine for the luck of the Northern Irish, as they gaze at Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley sitting side by side, promising their war is over and vowing to govern their bruised land together. How the people of Tel Aviv and Ramallah must wish their leaders would show some of that same Belfast determination which, after a long, torturous decade, has finally wound up what once seemed an intractable conflict. Instead, Israel and Palestine watch months turn into years without progress.
    Now there is a chance to break the deadlock. The 22 member nations of the Arab League are meeting for two days in Riyadh, with the Arab-Israeli conflict high on their agenda. They are preparing to make a remarkable offer: if Israel withdraws to its 1967 borders, pulling out of the West Bank and Gaza, they will agree to a full and comprehensive peace, including normal relations, between the entire Arab world and Israel.

    [Edited by Admin]

  11. A Beitz said

    Hmmm. I think the major problem with this initiative, which is only clear if you have the patience to read through this article, is the right of return of the refugees. In fact I think that same problem was one of the major reasons peace could not be achieved with Arafat at Taba. Realistically Israel can’t agree that. Even although many Palestinians might not want to use the offer others would become economic migrants and it is not difficult to envisage another war breaking out between Hamas and Fatah leading to a major refugee crisis.
    I think the initiative nneds to be looked at seriously but I coulodn’t blame Mr 2% approval rating if he didn’t move on if the right of demand return is intractable.

  12. borat said

    Npn, You have just scored a fine own goal. The tone of your reply is so pompous thereby giving complete credence to Marvin’s inane comments.

    Would it not have been better for you just ignore the drivel that Marvin and his infantile crowd contribute, rather than humour them with the benefit of a reply. Thats the only way to deal with buffoons like him in my opinion.

    BTW, I actually thought you did well.

  13. Nemo said

    I reiterate my earlier posting. It was an excellent meeting and chaired by a pro who was also informed and prepared. I know there are more meetings scheduled. Perhaps Marvin would volunteer his services for one of them, we could then compare chairpersons.

  14. npn said

    Tha Article above is all very well-but it pre-supposes an Offer which has not yet been made ! Further I doubt that it will , and even if it is made it won’t be in the same form at as the journalist imagines for his Article ; I find his suggestion that Israel might be bluffing about wanting peace to be incredible ,even insulting . The peace accord with Egypt whilst emotionally tough ,did not actually prejudice the security of Israel per se -the Sinai is a physical barrier to be traversed whoever it belongs to , and losing it was not a major security risk . Any deal going forward needs to ensure Israel’s security and minimise the chance of changing materially the make -up/demography of the citizens of the state-the Palestinian right of return is simply not workable-and the Arabs know that ; it is however an emotive phrase and as such they will seek to use it to their full advantage in the international arena ,but ultimately unless they drop that point ,there is nothing meantime to be gained in flying to Jerusalem with a “peace plan” .

  15. Baruch Spinoza said

    Apropos Jonathan Freedland, I would also draw the attention of your readers to his damning critique of the delusional Weltanschauung of Melanie Phillips, which is published in today’s edition of the Jewish Chronicle:

    The Danger of Melanie Phillips
    Jonathan Freedland

    It is an unwritten rule of my trade that you do not attack a colleague: dog doesn’t eat dog. We’re meant to show our teeth only to those in power, not humble scribblers like ourselves. But it is a tribute to one of my colleagues that her conviction and energy have made her a figure of genuine influence, one who has — as I shall reveal — moved beyond commentating on public affairs to affecting them. She is now more than a journo, rather a player in the national and, crucially, international conversation.

    I am speaking of my fellow resident of this slot, Melanie Phillips. Though I always enjoy her company, I confess that I disagree with Melanie on most things. That’s fine: disagreement is a Jewish sport and we enjoy it. But in recent months, I feel Melanie has crossed a few lines that should not be crossed — and cannot go unchallenged.

    [Edited by Admin]

  16. Tony B said

    Also of interest from the New York Times:

    Heads of Arab States Prod Israel to Embrace Peace Offer
    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 29

    The leaders of 21 Arab governments on Thursday called on Israel to embrace a peace initiative that would have it withdraw from the land it occupied in the 1967 war in exchange for full diplomatic relations with them, saying the window would not remain open for long.
    Israel said it welcomed the offer of normalization and peace but made clear that it had numerous reservations about the offer.
    In a closing statement at the summit meeting here of the Arab League, the delegates reaffirmed “the option of a just and comprehensive peace for the Arab nation” that would be “based on the principles and resolutions of international legitimacy and the land-for-peace formula.”

    [Edited by Admin]

  17. Ousgemattered said

    Perhaps all those who wish to fill this blog with newspaper articles which can put you to sleep could just direct us to the relevant webpage to view the articles rather than reproduce them in full here. Its a lorralorra reading as Cilla would say.

  18. Nemo said

    I’m with Ousgemattered. Whether its the Guardian or Ha’aretz or The N Y Times a redirection is enough. We can then make our own minds up to read or not read the articles.

  19. A Beitz said

    Me too. There may also be an issue of copyright and accordingly posting a full article could mean it has to be pulled unlike a link.

  20. NLL said

    Can I direct people to yet another article, which may be of particular interest to those who have spoken in various places on the blog about their wish to follow a more cultural form of Judaism ? P45 of the JC, (above the one by Jonathan Freedland) Geoffrey Alderman has written about the ordination of a group of ‘secular Rabbis.’ They are graduates of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism,

    Like the writer I find it very hard to completely separate Jewish culture, history, ethos etc from the religion which these things grew up around.

  21. Reality Check said

    Reality Check Says:
    April 4th, 2007 at 7:15 pm
    I have just spent the last two evenings enjoying Seder nights with my family.
    I have looked at this blog from time to time – never feeling the need to comment myself until now.
    What has prompted my change of mind is this. At the Seder the conversation got round to the recent lecture held with Mona Siddiqui and Tony Klug.
    We have a large family and two or three of us were at this meeting. It was an exceptionally interesting event and very thought provoking.
    During our conversation someone asked who had organised the meeting in question and when told that it was a new group within the community – GJEF – they commented that they had heard from people who know what is going on that this is a cover group for another organisation and that they will cause trouble. When I asked who had told them this I was told that it had come from sources close to the Rep Council and others very involved in communal work.
    Our conversation developed and I replied like this. Hopefully I was able to persuade others that this is complete nonsense.
    As far as I have been able to work out this new group have held 3 meetings so far and have another 3 in the near future. I have attended all 3 so far.
    The first one was about Calderwood Lodge. It was a large meeting and the speaker Jim Duffy, the headteacher. The school received more profile as a result of this event and no one I spoke to had anything to say that wasn’t positive.

    I’m sorry but I can’t work it out. How can a meeting about our Jewish primary school be part of a Peace Now? No other organisation in our city thought of organising this event so why don’t those who criticise think why they didn’t do it themselves.

    The next meeting was an opportunity for the MP Jim Murphy to explain British Government policy towards Israel. The content of Mr Murphy’s address has already been discussed on this blog but it’s worth repeating. This could never have been a Peace Now meeting. And yet again I raise the same question – If you don’t approve of GJEF why did they have to arrange this event? No one else bothered to.

    And then the 3rd meeting with Mona Siddiqui and Tony Klug. This was a discussion concerning local Moslem attitudes towards Israel and their relationship with the Jewish Community. This was a very significant educational meeting – tell me the last time a communal organisation asked a member of the Moslem community to address our community.

    According to their publicity GJEF’s next speakers are Jonathan Freedland and an Orthodox Rabbi from Jerusalem.
    No doubt there are some sad characters out there who will tell you that this is the Peace Now agenda emerging. This is crazy. Apart from the fact that he is one of Britain’s foremost journalists this guy actually spoke at a Rep Council meeting a few years ago. So if he was Kosher then – I would love to know what’s changed. And the Rabbi is not exactly revolutionary stuff either.

    And then we here criticism of this blog. Of course there has been a lot of nonsense posted in this forum. And of course some people don’t like what they read. Is that not what blogs are all about. And before some blogger expert jumps in to tell me that it should be done this way or that way let me reply that no other group has ever started a blog for our community before so give GJEF credit for starting something new and innovative. I’m sure the guys behind this will listen to constructive comment and hopefully in time more people will enjoy using it to express their views. But just like me until now many people have read it with interest – some no doubt have been outraged and some embarrassed – but at least there can be some discussion.

    To those people who have carped about GJEF not really being about the Community’s Future, my response is quite clear. Tell me another organisation in our community that will have arranged up to 6 public meetings with interesting speakers in 5 months. In case you are not sure – the answer is no one else has done this for years. Is this not the future of this community?

    And to those in the Rep Council or any other members of the communal establishment who don’t like what is going on I would like to say this. Why don’t you thank these guys for putting on meetings that you have either been too lazy to do yourself or did not have the imagination or foresight to think of. They at least are doing something – the sniping that is heard – the snide comments that GJEF are up to something – does you no credit at all. If you don’t like what’s going on what are you doing to offer the community an alternative?

    So please let’s stop the stories about plots and fronts for other organisations.
    It is completely without foundation and it is not credible. I’m going to post this comment on all the discussion forums on this blog because I have no idea which people read most.
    And I am not one of the organisers of GJEF, nor am I a relative or being paid a fee for this. I just want them to continue with what they are trying to do with a lot more communal support.
    Thank you for your patience.

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